On 9/11 (Tuesday, September 11, 2001), I picked up my youngest daughter from elementary school and told her in a quivering voice that something horrible had taken place in our country.
On 1/6 (Wednesday, January 6, 2021), that same daughter and I watched in horror, commenting to each other in quivering voices, as a different something horrible took place in our country.
We live on average about 30,000 days. A handful of these days are truly memorable: wonderfully memorable like falling in love, getting our first job, seeing the birth of a child; tragically memorable, like burying a loved one, being diagnosed with a disease, seeing the Twin Towers fall . . . and watching the storming of our nation’s Capitol.
While we should be shocked by last week’s event, we should not be surprised by it.
In a November editorial, I noted that the level of internal strife in America has been growing for decades and has reached dangerous levels.
I shared that Sauk Valley Community College had joined area chambers (Dixon, Rock Falls, and Sauk Valley Area), the Worship Center Ministries, and the YWCA of the Sauk Valley to create Sauk Valley Unites, a nonpartisan partnership calling communities to come together to seek common ground and discourage polarization, to advocate for everyone being a good neighbor and community member, and to promote peaceful elections and safeguard the democratic process.
Twenty-five additional organizations have signed on with Sauk Valley Unites, and I encourage the quiet majority in the Sauk Valley to go to www.saukvalleyunites.us and join us.
Now is a critical time for the Sauk Valley, for Illinois, and for America. Now is a time to end our silence. Now is a time to add our measured voices to what is good and enduring in our society.
To that end, I emailed Sauk’s faculty, staff, and students the evening of Jan. 6 in response to that day’s unprecedented event in Washington, DC. I emphasized my response was not political – it was not in support of or in objection to any political party. I emphasized the storming of the nation’s Capitol is inconsistent with Sauk’s ethical values of respecting the worth and dignity of all people; standing for integrity and fairness; and encouraging responsibility, accountability, and persistence in a caring, supportive environment.
I encouraged each of us to stay true to Sauk’s ethical values and to put these values into action. I noted I would be Pollyanna to the extreme to think our actions at Sauk Valley Community College would have an impact nationally, but they could have an impact within the Sauk Valley and they would allow us to take pride that we added our voices to what is best and most important in our society. I concluded that it is our civic responsibility to be true to our values . . . that we owe it to each other and all former and future Sauk faculty, staff, and students.
Across the Sauk Valley, we must make it clear that folks with different political views can be good neighbors. We must restore common decency as being common.
And, perhaps, by sharing our voices, we can create a few more wonderfully memorable days when the good, respectful, and decent outweigh the bad, dangerous, and vulgar.
Dave Hellmich is president of Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon.